Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Wayne Campbell
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” – Marcus Garvey, Jamaica is often viewed as a Christian nation, yet many of us turn to sources other than God for protection.
Disturbingly, even in the church there are members who adorn themselves with items of protection as they seek to shield themselves and their families from negativity such as bad luck and influences of evil among other things.
If ever there were a paradox, Jamaica is a prime example. Whether we agree or disagree, obeah is part of our African retention given that most of us can
trace our ancestral lineage to the continent of Africa.
It is often said that obeah is a thriving business in Afro Caribbean societies, and surprisingly the belief in obeah spreads across all socio-economic and educational levels within the society.
Obeah is sometimes referred to as science. We have all heard the phraseologies, ‘someone inna yuh life’ or ‘go look bout yuhself.’
Interestingly, obeah is both a verb and a noun. Obeah is a religious practice based on a combination of multiple religions; in other words a creolization of religions.
The practice of harnessing supernatural forces and spirits for one’s own personal use, known in some parts of Africa as ‘Obeye’ (an entity that lives within witches), has taken on many names in the Caribbean islands, such as Shango (Trinidad), Santeria (Cuba), Vodun or Voodoo (Haiti), Ju-Ju (Bahamas),
In almost every community, urban and rural there is someone who is readily identifiable as an obeah man. Of course the practising of obeah is not gender sensitive. There are women who are also practitioners of this religious form.
In March of this year the country was plunged into mourning upon learning of the murder of a grade10 male student
who attended a high school located in Martha Brae in the parish of Trelawny over a guard ring.
Guard rings were quite popular in Jamaica a few decades ago. It appears the popularity of this item of jewellery has made a reemergence, especially in a context regarding the belief in some quarters of the power and influence
such rings have on the Jamaican culture.
In local folklore so-called guard rings are said to provide the wearer with protection from a range of ills.
Guard rings are not cheap. One therefore must ask the question, how is it that students can afford to acquire these rings.
According to a media source, a guard ring costs in the region of $100,000 to $150,000 or approximately US$1,000. One senior police officer in Trelawny told a media outlet that the wearing of guard rings has been linked to lottery scamming.
The police have, in the past, said that some scammers in Western Jamaica have been turning to the world of the occult, obeah and black magic for protection.
“Our investigations have revealed that a number of these students are active in the lottery scamming, and these guard rings are purchased through scamming,”
the senior cop stated.
He reasoned that the constant suspension of face-to-face classes over the past two years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, amplified the problem of youngsters participating in the illicit trade.
History of Guard Rings
Evil has always existed. The use of guard rings to protect people from human and supernatural threat to life and limbs has been in practice for many decades in Jamaica.
These rings are said to be found on the fingers of some of Jamaica’s most notorious criminals over the years.
We should be fair in our discussion in that guard rings are also worn by upstanding blue collar workers. Interestingly, the discourse takes a different tone when uptown folks are seen adorned with guard rings.
This separation of criticism based on social class is hypocritical.
It is said that when the rings get warm, it means that danger is looming near, and it is time to go into hiding, or prepare for a confrontation.
The ones that were regarded the most potent were those ‘loaded’ by practitioners of de Laurence (called ‘Deelawrence’ locally).
The name de Laurence drives fear into the heart of many. He is widely regarded as among the best in witchcraft and evil.
De Lue Laurence was a pioneer in the business of supplying magical and occult items by mail order.
His magical and occult products were regarded as very effective, more powerful that the others and the use of such became associated with voodoo, obeah, witchcraft, black magic, white magic, juju, etc
In an interview with a local media house, ‘Loaderman’ determines what the ring is going to be loaded with.
Essential to the ingredients is something from the client’s body, be it urinary waste, sex fluids, tears, hair, a piece of skin, blood, saliva, etc.
In addition, there might be “a piece of dead man headstone, grave dirt, dead man tissues, dead man ashes,” etc.
Loaderman stated you use a dead person to guard you, so when the blow comes, the spirit in the ring will be attacked and not you, because it is an image of someone else that the attacking spirit will see, and not you.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. [email protected]